The Zenfone 10 makes me miss Google’s Nexus series

ASUS Zenfone 10 vs. Google Pixel 7

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

I could show my age here; Like many Android enthusiasts, I have a particular soft spot for the long-defunct Nexus series (and Google Play edition devices, if you remember them?). Yes, it’s been nearly seven years since the Nexus 6P and the series has been plagued with more problems than paying customers should bear. However, the series produced a unique blend of hardware and software that, when it worked, was greater than the sum of its parts.

After spending a very pleasant time with the ASUS Zenfone 10 and Google’s Pixel 7 series, I can’t help but pine for another release from the supergroup that showcases the best of what Android can be. That might seem odd, given that the Pixel hardware is by far the best it’s ever been, and ASUS pretty much runs stock Android on its phone. But listen to me.

Unique hardware with no gimmicks

ASUS Zenfone 10 fingerprint scanner

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

After many years of trying by Google, the Pixel 7’s hardware is pretty good. Not without flaws, the Tensor G2 runs hotter than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and the camera bar is too easy to scratch and dent, but the overall package is essentially perfect for the price. Still, what would we give for a Pixel that charges in under an hour or has an ultra-snappy fingerprint scanner?

The Pixel hardware, by itself, isn’t that great compared to some competitors, and Google seems to know that. Tricky experiments like the Pixel 4’s Soli radar and the alleged temperature sensor in the upcoming Pixel 8 are misplaced offerings to stand out. They are perhaps better ideas than nothing, but the litmus test is whether a feature is truly useful for the daily life of potential customers. Google has swing and miss on that front, at least so far.

Despite the big improvements, Google still doesn’t do hardware quite as well as its competitors.

Then there’s the ASUS Zenfone 10, a phone chock full of easy-to-ignore extras. Whether it’s camera gimbal stabilization, tap-on-back shortcuts, or smart scroll key gestures. Even the headphone jack could be considered a gimmick in today’s wireless-obsessed audio market. However, spend some time setting up these features and it becomes apparent just how useful they are. Not to mention, this phone’s metal and biopolymer feel so much nicer than the Pixel’s slippery glass, and it charges fast, too.

Now I should note that recent Pixel phones come with a Quick Tap on the back which performs very similar functions to the Zenfone. However, you are limited to a single gesture. Not only is Zenfone 10 more flexible and customizable, but ASUS has also made many common gestures smarter.

The Zenfone 10 looks fantastic and is home to a range of smart features too.

For example, quickly checking notifications with any open app by simply sliding your thumb over the side of the phone, thus eliminating thumb fatigue all the way to the top of the screen, is a quality-of-life improvement that’s hard to leave behind. . Plus, you can now keep swiping to scroll down a long list of notifications. Likewise, I’ve lost count of how many times I just double-tapped the scanner to launch my favorite messaging app for a quick reply. The ideas are a simple marriage of hardware and software that puts functionality first.

Likewise, this phone’s video stabilization and long exposure camera capabilities are very impressive and demonstrate that sensible hardware choices can still trump software emulation. However, Google’s camera setup is still way ahead in terms of processing for general images, portraits and the like.

To that end, the Zenfone 10 isn’t quite as well fleshed out elsewhere. Although the stock version of Android is clean and fast, it is relatively basic in terms of apps, themes or even widgets compared to other brands. There’s Game Genie to offer extra gaming options plucked from the ROG series, of course, various camera light trail modes, and ASUS has an AI photo search feature on the device (currently in Beta). But gestures aside, that’s it for the ASUS software stamp. For better or worse.

It’s not Android that makes Pixel software shine

The Gogole photos logo on your smartphone next to other devices and the Stock Photos 2 frame

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

As synonymous as Android and Google are, it’s not the OS that stands out on a Pixel phone; it’s pretty much everything else from a software standpoint. While ASUS may have smart design covered in the hardware department, its biggest strength than Google when it comes to software.

For starters, you get the best of Google Photos, Google One, and more when you unbox your Pixel. Whether it’s vertical bokeh blur adjustments, free VPN access, or loads of cloud storage (Pixel Fold comes with a six-month 2TB free trial!), Google leverages its vast software ecosystem to give you a a bit more than you get elsewhere (unless you pay for Google’s services separately, of course). These software additions make the Pixel series great value for money, at least in the short term.

Google’s unique software features are what make the Pixel series so compelling.

But then there are the Pixel-exclusive features too. Call Screen, Hold For Me, voicemail transcripts and more are ready to use right out of the box. All build on what we might consider the quintessential smartphone experience, enhancing the Pixel series with smart features you won’t find elsewhere (at least not to the same extent).

Let’s not forget the phone’s camera capabilities. Thanks to a virtually unmatched confidence in AI image processing, the intelligence of the software continues to propel the Pixel series to the top of the charts at a fraction of the budget of its biggest photographic rivals. Motion mode, Top Shot photography, and Google One features required by Google Photos take the Pixel photography experience to another level.

In short, Pixel software isn’t really defined by Android; it is precisely the Google ecosystem that does the heavy lifting. Whether that’s good or bad boils down to how much of a fan you are of Google’s apps and services.

Homescreen ASUS Zenfone 10 vs Google Pixel 7

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

On reflection, I guess I don’t really want a Nexus phone, as it would lose all the progress Google has made outside of the core OS. Nexus is a throwback to the days before Google took over on the software front and should probably stay in the past. At the same time, I also don’t want to spend money every month on phone features. But remove the Google One, and the Pixel software experience—including cameras, photos, and other AI extras—gets to the sweet spot where services make phones more than just panes of glass.

However, it may not be for everyone. Those looking to escape the confines of Google or any specific software ecosystem may prefer a more lightweight approach, and ASUS’ approach is quite delicate. Perhaps the Zenfone 10 is already a modern Nexus, or at least as close as possible.

Perhaps the ASUS Zenfone 10 is already a modern Nexus. Or as close as possible.

Still, ASUS intuitive hardware combined with Google’s smart software (and camera smarts) would make the best Pixel in my book. I’m sad the phone doesn’t exist, even though the Zenfone 10 and Pixel 7 are both brilliant in their own right.

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Asus ZenFone 10

Asus ZenFone 10

Compact design
Excellent build quality
Robust performance and battery

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